Deafness, Inclusivity and Me

Deafness, Inclusivity and Me

Written by Claire

I have never had to write about my experiences of deafness before and I’m keen not to make sweeping statements about ‘all deaf or hearing-impaired people’. As with mental health, the lived experience of deafness is varied. Not every person with hearing loss wants to draw attention to it, where as some people celebrate it as a part of the person they are.

It always shocks people when I say I wasn’t born hard of hearing. I caught measles as a baby but it wasn’t until I was about 7 years old that my parents and my teachers realised I was struggling. My class teacher cried when she was told of my hearing problem – she’d been scolding me for not listening.

I had my fair share of teachers who didn’t know how to deal with it, kids that would sneer about it, and the general feeling of being ‘not like everyone else’. So, by the time I reached upper school I had started to hide it from people. It’s very easy to hide a hidden disability. I was labelled quiet and shy. No one will pick up on what I’m hiding if I don’t say anything.

This tactic doesn’t work as you get older though. You can’t be shy when you’re working in a shop, going to university or socialising. This is when I realised my refusal to wear hearing aids and tell people was really holding me back. When I went to university I met the first person of my age who was like me – she wore her hair up and didn’t hide her hearing aids. Her family was deaf too so it was a shared experience that they all celebrated. It was like a new world to me. But I was too used to hiding it by this point I didn’t know how to do anything else. I still refused to wear hearing aids and went through my entire degree without them. I would go to the lectures as necessary but would avidly read books on the topics to make up for missing half the course content in the auditorium.

In my 20’s I got a great job but I struggled to decide who I could trust to tell. With a hidden disability, I have to actually share this information. I felt, in every new situation, I should have to announce it. “Gather round everyone – I have something to say!” I stupidly wished I had something more visible.

I told a few people and, as I missed things, those people told others. This is when I experienced my first professional example of discrimination. And it was well meant. I was told I wasn’t invited to a work meeting ‘because you would probably really struggle’. Well-intentioned discrimination is something I found harder to deal with. Having someone excessively mouth their words to me in a way that made them even harder to understand was one thing. Being ‘kindly’ left out was another. I began to wear hearing aids.

Now in my 40’s I have learned to accept this part of me that I can’t change, and enjoy the things about it that are a blessing. I sleep in blissful silence, I can switch off the noise whenever I like, I can laugh at myself when I get something really wrong. I can lip read you across a room – watch your language! I work with people who go out of their way to ensure I can hear. People know to look at me and speak clearly if they want to be heard.

The pandemic reminded me just how much I lip read. Suddenly getting a prescription, being served in a shop or trying to hear a taxi driver became a nightmare. I felt awful asking people to pull down the mask but there was just no way I would hear otherwise. But I also noticed I wasn’t the only one. Everyone was struggling to understand each other as masks muffled speech and blocked that friendly smile.

I hope the pandemic taught us all, as it did with mental health, that our social interactions are so very important and without them the feeling of isolation takes over. Deaf Awareness Week this week reminds us that deafness and hearing loss can be incredibly isolating but it doesn’t have to be. It’s an incredible opportunity to think about how you communicate; are you clear, do you turn/walk away when you speak to someone, do you speak quickly, do you mumble? Do you allow for pauses so people can keep up, do you talk over other people? So, have a think about how you communicate this week and try to make small changes that might mean the world to someone who struggles to hear.

Easter

Easter

Written by Heather

Easter is my absolute favourite time of the year. Culturally, many of us celebrate the religious festivals of Christianity in this country but the focus is often on other things: Santa, presents, the Easter bunny, spending time with family and making fun for the children. My faith makes the celebrations about more than those things, although we do all those things too. At Easter, my thoughts are on the sacrifice Jesus made, the death and resurrection of Christ. It gives me opportunity to reflect and be thankful. It takes my thoughts off myself and my life and focuses me onto something bigger, something in which I put my trust and faith in. When I truly focus on God, the cares of the world dissipate and my anxieties fade.

The build up to Easter starts on Ash Wednesday (the day after Shrove Tuesday), which is the first day of lent. Lent lasts 40 days and represents the 40days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, during which time He was tested by satan but did not give in. To represent this some Catholics & Christians will give up something for lent; chocolate, meat, TV; or choose to take up something new, like doing more in the community to test their self-discipline like Christ was tested.

Lent ends with Holy Week, which starts on Palm Sunday, the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday celebrates the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem, He was cheered and celebrated. Holy Week goes on to include the Last Supper, Judas betrayal of Jesus and of course the death of Christ on the cross before His resurrection on Sunday.

Easter reminds me so much of the sacrifice Christ made, for me. The Bible tells us that He would have come for just one of us, to pay for our sins that we might be free. In a world where imposter syndrome is felt by most of us, often I can find myself feeling ‘less’ than others and not good enough.

There have been years when I have become lost in the cultural traditions and forgotten about the reason we have Easter. As the years pass, the spiritual side becomes more and more significant for me. The time of reflection on the build up to and during this Easter celebration on the sacrifice of Jesus always, without fail, makes me feel differently. I feel loved. It changes me every year for the better. It changes the way I feel about myself and my internal dialogue. I feel more at peace with myself, less critical of myself and more thankful for everything.

Beckfoot School pupils win £1000 for The Cellar Trust!

Year 9 students at Beckfoot School in Bingley took part in the First Give programme in their Tutor Sessions and chose to support The Cellar Trust. We are so grateful to them on their incredible social action – Group 904 won the £1,000 grant.

Through the First Give programme, students carried out social action to support fundraising and raising awareness. They then competed in a School Final, where one class from the year group would win the additional £1,000 First Give grant for their chosen charity.

“The students have chosen your charity because they are passionate about Mental Health. After researching the work you do in our local area, the students will be doing awareness raising and/or fundraising on your behalf.” Juliet Simpson, Faculty Leader – MFL

Find out more about how First Give works on their website: www.firstgive.co.uk.